Touching down at Logan Airport last night marked the end of a whirlwind weekend of learning in Philadelphia with whom I would argue to be some of the more progressive ’21st century thinking’ educators in the field. I had walked into the halls of the Science Leadership Academy uncertain as to what the experience before me would be like, but highly optimistic that I would ultimately walk away with a focused vision on 1) online learning 2) science education and 3) personal direction to aid in the improvement of education in America.
(For those interested in the final summation, skip down to the final section on this post)
Friday’s tour and observation of activities at the SLA made for a great kickoff to the weekend. Michael Springer
and I were shown around by an articulate and passionate sophomore student who went by the name, “Bear.” Bear not only gave us a 40 minute tour sharing inner workings of different classrooms in the overall climate of the school, but then sat with us for an additional hour divulging all he knew about any questions we could throw at him.
On Saturday I focused on finding answers to my first question regarding online learning. Ted Bongiovanni
facilitated a conversation
on distance learning that I and a few others twisted into a conversation on online/classroom blended learning. I summarized this conversation later in a podcast
for future reflection and the enjoyment of others. I was genuinely impressed in the second session when I watched Dave Bill
and Basil Kolani
share the structure and results of their “online participatory learning” class. Their own students acted as a panel during the session to answer questions about the class via an Elluminate session set up with their camera facing us, the audience. The kids were great, extolling the newly found virtues of Twitter and Google Alerts, leading one kid to exclaim how finding an audience online and links/resources to interests she was passionate about had made her become “a twitaholic.”
Sunday gave me opportunity to visualize and articulate with fellow science teachers the future of science education and how we might reach such lofty visions. A common chord we found here was echoed in the morning discussion panel
. The need for common planning time was critical for educators. Not only would the time allowed teachers opportunity to coordinate curriculum and develop solutions together to everyday problems but it would also give time and space for educators to meet and disrupt one another’s common practices through conversation to better the learning environment. (Note: Danja Mahoney did an excellent job summarizing and collecting key backchannel comments on the morning discussion panel. If you are interested in reading more tweet her your request at the tweet above.
Even the social mixer on Saturday night proved professionally rewarding. I was able to put real names and faces to many twitter avatars I’d come to respect online while sharing in both casual and educational dialogue. I shared a drink with SLA science teacher and former Massachusetts local, Tim Best who shared more about his own teaching experiences at SLA as well as his thoughts on Moodle. I shared a lengthy conversation with Nick Sauers
of Iowa State University and colleague of Scott McLeod
, who encouraged me to continue my learning at a higher level if I wished to stretch my influence on education beyond my annual classrooms. I also had the pleasure of meeting some entrepreneurial Olon University students, most notably Andy Pethan who I hope to build a working relationship with testing their new educational learning platforms currently under construction.
Overall the experience left me with a few resonating thoughts:
1) As SLA principal, Chris Lehmann
noted in his session titled, “Leadership 2.0” communities of care play a critical role in developing students and engaging them in learning. Whether it be in the classroom, the hallway, or via twitter and online classrooms when students know you care, they buy in. The same applies to fellow educators and administrators. (Almost as if on cue during this conversation, an SLA student texted his advisor to inform him he had been accepted to West Virginia University.)
2) Reform is all about disrupting current practices that can be enhanced for student learning and to continue to challenge common practices that do not put student learning first.
3) There are countless resources available to educators via the web. To tap into such resources educators must network and share with one another such resources for the common and collective good of their students.
4) There is a need to energize the spirit of younger educators who might carry the torch to a level beyond where education stands today. Such a charge stands at the root of education and will be more critical than ever as a generation of veteran educators retire while government budgets tighten in the expectation becomes “do more with less.”
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